Christian Living Church Leadership

Are you willing to love your life?

I’ve gotten a fresh round of criticism lately and most of it flows back to a single source: There are people so grumpy that it annoys them that I am happy.

It’s as if we’ve grown so accustomed to whining about everything that we now have decided to whine about people who aren’t whining.

Maybe our entire country is depressed?

People seem pessimistic that optimism is even possible.

Beyond Content

I love my life. And I’m not afraid to state it.

Critics– Go buy some cotton candy and watch kids on the merry-go-round for an hour.

2009 sucked in many ways but galvanized one important thing: I am comfortable with who God has made me to be, come what may.

And in releasing that anxiety God rewarded my life with a flood of blessing.

Why am I happy? I’m challenged in new ways all the time. And I love that. I’m learning all the time. And I love that. I am doing things that matter. And I love that.

My bills are paid. My kids are safe. Our family is growing. I take joy in the simple things. I take joy in being charitable with my time and treasures. I stop and smell the roses. I have many things in my life I could complain about but I simply chose not to.

Find someone to high five and give them one! Glory to God!

And yet I know it bugs people to say that I’m happy. In some Christian circles happiness really isn’t allowed… only contentedness. If you are too happy that is somehow sinful. This reminds me of the Puritans, who forbade comfortable furniture because being too comfortable or sleeping too well would somehow lead you to sin.

Happiness is not bad. Jesus’ sermon on the mount contained something we call the beatitudes. This was a list of counter-culture things that should make us happy! (Read Matthew 5) Blessed is just a fancy way of saying, “Happy.” Reread the beatitudes and insert that word. It’ll rock your world.

See, happiness is an attitude I chose. It comes from within and not from circumstances. It’s why I can walk around a tent city in Port-au-Prince and meet widows who tell me, “I don’t have anything but I am happy. In Christ, I have everything I could ever need.”

Say it with me, “I love my life.”

I’ve met too many church staff members this year who have chosen dissatisfaction as their attitude. It’s as if nothing short of being the most famous person in the world. Loving God and serving his people in their town just isn’t satisfying. We sit down and they list 25 things that are going great in their ministry. But that one thing drives them to dissatisfaction and bitters their whole life.

You can smell it on them. Literally, it is a stench of dissatisfaction. It’s hard to be around.

My advice? Chose a new attitude today. Join me in choosing happiness.

Write it down. Declare it to some people. Make today the day you chose happiness.

Actually say it out loud, right now. “I love my life.

Maybe it’s the first time you’ve ever said that out loud. Practice it a few more times… “I love my life.” Say it again and again until it feels natural.

Kind of freeing, isn’t it? Go ahead, text it to your spouse right now. “Baby, I love our life.

Happiness comes from within. It is absent from circumstances. A happy person is happy because they’ve chosen to be happy. And choosing to be happy can be one of the most powerful, life-changing things you could ever do.

Go and tell

Imagine the joy it would cause if people in your life to know that you’re happy? Think about the sweet lady in your church who has told you over and over again that she prays for you daily. Or your boss. Or your mom. You know– the people who really care about you and your happiness.

Let it be known that you love your life. Write, “I love my life” as your Facebook status today. Post it on Twitter. Print off a sign and put it on the doorway to your office.

I dare you. Chose happiness and change your life. It can start today.

O, that we would live a life worthy where the Gospel has fully penetrated even to our attitudes.

Church Leadership

Pastors Most Powerful Answer

New pastors quickly learn that ministry life is full of big questions.

Questions that make you feel very small and insignificant. Questions that make God feel massively huge and almost out of reach. Questions that are so loaded and full of pain that they prime tears just to get the words out. Questions that have layers and layers of answers.

Questions in which the answers will define a persons walk with Jesus for years to come.

In those moments it is tempting to rattle off a pat answer. Or the denominations party line. Or what the board would rule as the right answer. Or something you read in a book. Or what you think the person wants to hear. Or a mechanical theological opinion.

My encouragement is that often times, the best first answer is simply… I don’t know.

Why did my dad die?

I don’t know.

Why did God chose me to get this disease?

I don’t know.

Was I born gay?

I don’t know.

Why did God allow my parents to divorce?

I don’t know.

Why can’t I have children and all my friends can?

I don’t know.

Why can’t the Cubs win the World Series or Brett Favre stay retired?

I don’t know.

Why did I lose my job?

I don’t know.

Why does God answer some people’s prayers but not mine?

I don’t know.

The list never ends. It gets longer and deeper every day.

Why say “I don’t know?

I’ve found that when someone comes to me with a big question like that they really do need to know the answer to that question. But my responsibility, and what is ultimately helpful for them, isn’t to give them “my answer.

I’ve found it most helpful in those situations to comfort, console, reaffirm, and point them to Jesus as the author, answer, and hope for those big questions.

With those questions I always point them to Scripture. I always make time to pray with them. I always follow-up later. I always affirm where the Bible is clear on a topic and where it isn’t. I always look in their eyes and say, “I do know this, that God always shows up. He always loves you. His ways aren’t always meant to be known by you.

But my first response is almost always, “I don’t know.”

The temptation

I bring this up because it is incredibly easy to pretend to have all the answers. As if, a seminary degree is permission to have all the answers. It makes you feel powerful. It makes you feel like you know what you are talking about. It feels good when people come to you with big questions.

But the role of a pastor is not to be the Bible Answer Man or to just to give the hard, cold facts. (There is a place for that, for sure. But an initial meeting isn’t it.) More often, our job to point people wandering the desert in their pain, sorrow, and longing to the Grace Giver. To the only answer to life’s hard questions. To remind them that no matter what, Jesus thought they were worth dying for.

Church Leadership youth ministry

The Bible is Useful

Recently we took a survey of Youth Specialties customers. The results of one particular question completely shocked me. Here it is:

When I was looking through the initial survey results I turned around to Tic, and said… “Wanna know why so many youth groups are struggling to keep students for the long haul? There’s the problem, right there.

Of our sample of 600 youth leaders 76.8% of them teach mostly topically?

The words of Paul echoed in my head:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

But apparently many youth workers don’t believe this is true. They believe that topics are more important than Scripture!

Let’s review:

  • All topics are not God-breathed.
  • All topics aren’t useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.
  • All topics are not equipping the man of God for every good work.

But God’s word is!

Look at it another way– Most youth workers are getting in the way of this.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:14-15

Don’t even give me the parent comeback. “It’s a parents role to teach their kid the Scriptures.” That’s a joke. Youth workers aren’t paid to babysit, are they? Certainly, parents have a role in teaching their children. But, as a person called and equipped to teach and reach middle and high schoolers doesn’t teach the Bible– what kind of example is  that?

Don’t give me the “all the kids in my youth group know the Bible” comeback either. If all you are reaching are kids who were born and raised in the church than you’ve lost sight of what youth ministry is all about in the first place! I would argue that if you aren’t reaching teenagers for Christ than you aren’t likely doing discipleship while going anyway.

Here’s what I am saying.

  • Get back to your first love.
  • Teaching the Bible is more useful than teaching purely topically.
  • Teaching the Bible is taking students to the primary source.
  • Teaching the Bible is equipping your students for every good work.
  • Teaching the Bible is long-sighted and strategic.
  • Teaching the Bible is teaching a man to fish instead of giving a man a fish.
  • Get back to your first love.
  • If you want to change a persons’ life, you need to get them in God’s word.